Laurence Bedwell Holland, 59, the chairman of the English department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, died Friday in a swimming accident at Ripton Gorge, Vt.

An official of the Vermont State Police said Prof. Holland was swimming in the Middlebury River when he was caught in some rapids and drowned. He was in Vermont as a member of the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College at the time of his death. He had taught at Bread Loaf, a summer program for graduate students, for the past 16 years. a

Prof. Holland joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 1970 and was chairman of the English department at the time of his death.

Prof. Holland was born in Lincoln, Neb. He graduated from Princeton University in 1942 and then was an intelligence officer in the Army Air Force in Europe during World War II. He earned his doctorate at Harvard University and returned to Princeton in 1950 as a member of the faculty. He remained at Princeton until 1969.

He was the author of "The Expense of Vision: Essays on the Craft of Henry James" and was an editor of "Who Designs America" and "The Norton Anthology of American Literature."

Survivors include his wife, Faith Mackey Holland of Baltimore, three children, Mary Sarah Freeman of Cambridge, Mass., Eugene William, of San Diego, Calif., and Kate Louise Holland of Baltimore and his mother, Louise Bedwell Holland, a brother, Eugene, and a sister, Sarah Alaberts, all of Chicago.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions in Prof. Holland's memory to Johns Hopkins University for graduate fellowships, or to the Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.